“…. and know when to fold’em!”

September27/ 2012

I’ve long used a poker game to illustrate an academic institution’s decision to “be competitive” at the BCS / Final Four level of Big Time College Sports.  A seat at the BCS Poker table requires a hefty ante and a steely-eyed commitment to do what it takes to do what we say we intend to do.  Today, lame-duck Chancellor Holden Thorp has folded UNC’s hand and pushed away from that high stakes game with “the Big Dogs”.  PokerDogsThe applaudin’. and the cussin’, has commenced……

I had a great column about replacement refs…. but, as so often happens, “news out of Chapel Hill” takes the cake.

I’m fine with Holden’s announcement Thursday that UNC will be significantly upgrading its admission standards for “student-athletes”.  But I ain’t a drooling board monkey.

And lets get something straight – unlike former AD “Dickie The Putz” – when Holden is talking about these student-athletes he is talking about football and men’s basketball.    No one cares, or ever did care, about some fencer or field hockey girl that made a 4.0 or some rigged up “graduation rate” that counted Roy’s “biscuit boys”.   The “biscuit boys” have always had two purposes – (1) provide comic relief at the end of blow-outs and (2) jack up the team GPA.

ALL discussion of student-athlete “issues” at UNC concern Football and Men’s Basketball…. specifically the AfAm players.

Here are Holden’s comments – CLICK

If it sounds like maybe he’s been reading my columns when he talks about “trusting the wrong people” well…. if it quacks like a Dickie.…. ☺

The revelation that there were 53 admission exceptions during The Reign of Butcher can also be read as – “during years 3 and 4 of The Butcher, HALF the team were admitted thru a side door.”  If you only count the traveling squad that got their unis dirty on Saturday, the % is well over 80%.

For those naive Kool-Aid drinkers that convinced themselves that “maybe 3-4 at most and they had learning disabilities and were otherwise really good kids blah blah blah …..”.   Reality can be a real bitch.

Butch (and Blake) were able to recruit toe-to-toe with the SEC because he was using SEC admission standards.   If Butch’s final roster (2010) had been available, he had amassed enough SEC-level athletes to be a legitimate Top Ten team.  But Marvin tweeted in Spring of 2010 and Jennifer did whatever Jennifer did…. and parking tickets and plagiarized papers and…. and…. and that roster was gutted.  Prior to Marvin tweeting, Butch Davis had done exactly what he told the BOT3 he could do.

When the BOT3 was in that Chicago hotel suite going gaga over Butchie’s Super Bowl rings, ya think they talked about “HALF THE FREAKIN’ TEAM will be below UNC’s minimum admission standards.”   Ask Bob Winston or Paul Fulton if that was in those 3-ring binders that Butchie showed them – “How I Will Make (your school) A Top Ten BCS Program”.

If Carolina does away with or significantly reduces its admission exceptions for football and men’s basketball it cannot be competitive at the top echelon of Big Time College Sports PERIOD.

With creative out-of-conference scheduling, Carolina can consistently win 7-8 games each year with the occasional 6 or 9 Ws.  Kenan will host plenty of exciting games with hated rivals.  But don’t get all excited about that championship playoff yadda yadda. Christmases In Shreveport are still possible but NOT New Years on South Beach or Bourbon Street.  Both South Beach and Bourbon Street are dens of iniquity any way.

Can Carolina still be quite competitive versus it’s conference “comparables” – NCSU, Wake, UVa, Duke?  Absolutely.  Taking nothing away from NCState’s five game winning streak in football, the two programs’ successes against common opponents over that time period indicate the two programs are indeed comparable.  The same applies to UVA.

TO’B has proven throughout his career that he can build a solid football program and, with the occasional Matt Ryan or Russell Wilson. he can win the games he should win and now and then win a few he shouldn’t win….. and do so without using side doors and excuses.  He can build / maintain a very solid football program…. but not a great one.

Great football program have 3rd strings that could start for “good programs”.  Depth of talent separates “good” from “very good” from “great”.

What Holden is announcing is that UNC will become Northwestern….. and hopes to catch lightning in a bottle and become Stanford; but Northwestern is more likely.

Northwestern is now a good competitive football program under a unique young legacy coach that is consistently finishing in the middle of the Big Ten and upsets the occasional juggernaut every year or so…. and go to 3rd tier bowls every year.

Will the “be like Stanford” phrase come up a whole lot in the weeks, months, years to come.  A whole lot!  Stanford is currently riding a wave of several outstanding recruiting classes with 2-3 once-in-decade players.  See if Stanford can stay in the Top Ten for 2-3 more years.  And, remember my question – “Do Stanford’s players take Swahili too?”  Ask some CliffClavins from Cal-Berkley about Stanford’s keys to success.

Will UNC become a bell cow leading a herd of other schools to do likewise?  Not a chance.  But we will have a built-in excuse when Florida State, VaTech and Clemson give us scoreboard wedgies every year.

Will this be the impetus to create the mythical “Southern Ivies” conference with Navy, Vandy, and our Tobacco Road rivals?  Maybe.

Will Bubba Cunningham be comfortable with “the Northwestern model”.  I THINK Bubba will be very comfortable with that model and is uniquely talented as an administrator to extract every ounce of success from it however “success” is measured.

Will Larry Fedora be comfortable with it?  Uh oh!  That could be a problem.  “Admission standards” were not an issue at Coach Fedora’s last three career stops – Florida, Oklahoma State and So Miss.  Can he recruit the “skill players” he needs to run his high-octane offense?  Sure, he and his staff can sell themselves and UNC’s outstanding facilities with no problem.  But as any real estate agent or car salesman can attest – the sale is not complete until the prospect QUALIFIES.

Sure, Coach Fedora knew about the pending NCAA restrictions et al; but UNC nailing shut that side door thru admissions ????

WHAT ABOUT ROY & THE RAFTERS?  The “good news” this week is Roy doesn’t have cancer.  The not so good news is that if Holden is serious (and I think he is) Roy’s ability to bring in Final Four-level talent just took a gut-shot.   John Calipari is smiling.   My guess is that today Roy is not taking Holden seriously.  I think that is a mistake.

Bottom-feeding wuffies notwithstanding, Roy has never recruited “mouth-breathers” but the Tyler Zellers are certainly the rare exceptions.  Remember not only is Holden shutting the side door, he is power-washing out the flim flam courses.

Its 2012 and Final Four talent is looking at two years of national TV exposure…. dance deep into March and Sayonara College – Hello NBA.   They are NOT looking at burning midnight oil in Wilson Library.

A LOT of folks will applaud this latest announcement.
A LOT of folks will be as mad about this as they were at firing Butch.

If we claim to be “The University of The People” who exactly are “the people” we claim to be the University of?  The CliffClavins or the pointyheads ???  Or those Rotarians who don’t know/care who Jennifer Wiley is.  That debate just got really heated.

There are many many sidebars to today’s announcement.  Plenty of column fodder for the future, but that’s never been a problem.

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